When I started in this industry back in 2013 as a web analyst, I was astounded by the way we could use data to understand how a website was experienced, and that based on that data we could optimize it to make it even better for the users. I had my first taste of what data could bring, and I was unequivocally convinced of its value to both business and consumers.
Today, in 2020, I now help enterprise businesses make use of vast amounts of data — even to the point of predicting the needs of (and responding to) consumers in real-time. It is an amazing world filled with so many possibilities — but also just as much responsibility.
It is my firm belief that when consumers decide to share their data with us, they trust us to do the right thing with it. We should treat this trust with respect — respect for every human behind the data points. It is this foundation of respect that I believe should create the basis for marketing in 2020 and beyond — it is what is going to help us all adapt successfully to the new cookieless world.
Back in 2017, The Economist proclaimed that “the world’s most valuable resource is no longer oil, but data.” And as a professional in the tech and marketing field, I agreed then, and I still agree today.
As the value of data keeps growing, so does public awareness — and often, skepticism — around how that data is being used. Technology is developing at such a high rate that the general population and even legislation can't really keep up.
Changes and movements in the industry like ITP and Google cutting 3rd party cookies, plus a new wave of anti-trust hearings and consumer privacy documentaries are creating a lot of buzz around the use of data and the right to consumer privacy. When I look at all this happening around me, I can only conclude that we as an industry, and a society, are at crossroads. As professionals in the marketing and tech industry it is making us raise the question: is the way we as business leverage consumer data good or bad?
Something I have learned in my career in this industry is that data can (and should) be so much more than a commodity to create financial benefits in the business world. Data is a window to consumers. It's a digital handshake, a conversation, a way for businesses to and deliver value in an empathetic way that goes beyond simply selling more to more people.
Data is the way for us to understand each individual and what they need and want on a grand scale. And with today's technology, we can do that in real-time. So how can we make sure that data is used to create mutually beneficial relationships rather than only focusing on business gain?
Data should be collected and used to create true value and real customer-centricity.
We need to realize that it is a privilege to get to know our customers in such a rich way, and we need to treat it like that. When consumers share their data with us, they should benefit from the fact that you as a business know about them and their preferences
Realizing these benefits should be at the core of all your marketing and service efforts; this should be the bedrock of your strategy when mapping and executing your customer journeys and setting up campaigns and AI models. The onus is on the business to ensure each customer gets what they need, when they need it.
I see this as an amazing opportunity to create real and meaningful relationships with your customers in an increasingly digital (even more so in COVID times) world.
More does not equal better.
When it comes to collecting data, we need to ask ourselves: just because we can, does it mean we should?
Instead of aimlessly collecting all data you can get your hands on, focus instead on collecting the right data — data that can be used to add value to your customer's experience.
I suggest using The Right to be Informed to sanity-check your data collecting intentions. By informing your customers about what type of data you are collecting and how you will use it, you as a business can also make sure that your data strategy makes sense and will add value.
Just like any relationship, every party should get to decide how much and what they want to share.
The data your customers and prospects decide to share with you and allow you to collect is something to be treasured and respected. Be a data custodian, rather than a data owner.
Make sure that the platform you select to unify all your customer data also supports you in providing transparency around what data you are collecting from your customers (The Right to Access) and give them the opportunity to delete any data they'd rather not share with you (The Right to be Forgotten).
So, is the way we as businesses leverage consumer data good or bad? The cool thing is, we get to decide.
Data is not inherently bad — it's all about how it's collected and applied, plus the transparency (or lack thereof) around how this is being done. This creates a foundation for doing marketing in a respectful and responsible way.
What's pretty remarkable to me, is that the burden is on us, right now, today. We are all at the center of shaping the marketing and technology sectors — it is up to us to determine the future of our industry.
What that also means is that it's up to you as a business to determine how easily you will adapt to the new cookieless world. These changes present an opportunity to transition to a first-party-data first strategy that actually puts your customer at the center of everything — it's the perfect moment to ensure your customer journey is working to create mutually beneficial relationships.